When you get hurt (Genesis 34:1-2)

If God doesn’t prevent bad things happening, how do we cope?

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Now that Israel is in the land with the sons who will form the tribes of Israel, how will they represent the heavenly king in the presence of people who do not submit to him? The nations do not submit to God’s laws. Driven by their own passions, they take whatever they want by force.

We’ve seen this picture ever since Nimrod the warrior of Genesis 10. It’s devastating:

Genesis 34:1–2 (ESV)
1
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.

Are you tempted to stop reading, to skip to something more pleasant? You really need this text if you think, “God’s running the world, so he’ll never let anything bad happen to me.” That belief will fail you. Neither can you blame Dinah, as if she must have been doing something wrong or it wouldn’t have happened to her. Verse 1 explicitly sets up the story by saying she was behaving well in her culture. Don’t blame the victim. Continue reading “When you get hurt (Genesis 34:1-2)”

Living among people who don’t recognize God (Genesis 33)

As God’s representative, Jacob must make peace with Esau and the people of Canaan.

He’s no longer Jacob, the usurper who tries to take his brother’s birthright and blessing. Now he’s Israel—the one who embraces God, even when it’s a struggle. The God of Bethel has been here all along, and now Israel has returned to live in the land that is the house of God. The sovereign living among his people — that’s the kingdom ideal.

But it’s not quite that straightforward. There are already people in the land: Esau to start with, and then the Canaanites. How can the kingdom of God ideal work for Israel in a world where others may not be keen to have them there? This was the major problem for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, just as powers that refuse Jesus’ kingship have been the major threat to Christians in the last two millennia. Continue reading “Living among people who don’t recognize God (Genesis 33)”

Israel and the face of God (Genesis 32:22-32)

Why did God accost Jacob as he crossed back into the Land?

“A man” wrestled with Jacob all night. It’s the strangest story. Jacob is 97 years old, but “the man” can’t throw Jacob off and eventually has to ask Jacob to let him go (32:24-26). It gets even stranger when Jacob says he’s been wrestling with God (32:29-30). Continue reading “Israel and the face of God (Genesis 32:22-32)”

Jacob’s reconciliatory gift (Genesis 32:13-21)

How do you sort out a relationship with someone who wants you dead?

Jacob fears for his life. Esau will kill him if he believes he’s coming to claim the inheritance. Why else would he bring a posse of 400 men (32:6)? Continue reading “Jacob’s reconciliatory gift (Genesis 32:13-21)”

Discovering God’s army (Genesis 32:1-12)

Jacob was petrified of facing Esau, until he found he had a bigger fight on his hands.

I hope that reading the Bible as the story of the God’s kingdom is helping unfold its core message to you. It really does make a huge difference. Even those who write commentaries on the Bible have difficulty making sense of the text if they miss this perspective. Continue reading “Discovering God’s army (Genesis 32:1-12)”

When running is bad for your health (Genesis 31)

Run, or reconcile?

Jacob has a history of running instead of sorting things out. Remember how he ran from Esau? Well, it’s happening again. It tends to do that when you don’t resolve things. Continue reading “When running is bad for your health (Genesis 31)”

Jacob in exile: hope in difficult times (Genesis 29–30)

Despite Jacob’s failures, YHWH establishes the foundation of his kingdom.

In the third generation, the promises God gave to Abraham hang on a knife-edge. Jacob is the sole person who can advance the vision of descendants in the land (YHWH’s nation), but he has splintered the family and abandoned the land. The whole kingdom project dangles like a thread. Continue reading “Jacob in exile: hope in difficult times (Genesis 29–30)”

Jacob’s new direction (Genesis 28:18-22)

What turns someone around? A revelation of who God is.

Jacob’s alone. In the dark. Fleeing with nothing. With no one. His greed destroyed his family. He hopes Esau doesn’t find him.

None of this changes the sovereign’s plans. The God who promised land and descendants and blessing to his father and grandfather reveals himself to Jacob. Yes, Jacob goes into exile for his sins, but he does not go alone: Continue reading “Jacob’s new direction (Genesis 28:18-22)”

Jacob’s dream: a portal between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-17)

Jacob dreamed of a ladder linking God’s two realms. We’d probably call it a portal. What is the connection between heaven and earth?

Jacob is fleeing for his life. He’s leaving the land God promised to Abraham. He has no reason to come back. His father is dying. He’ll never see his mother again. For his own safety, he hopes he never sees his brother either. Continue reading “Jacob’s dream: a portal between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-17)”

Abraham’s family disintegrates (Genesis 27)

How can God’s rescue plan work when the problems that shattered humanity in the beginning threaten to destroy Abraham’s family?

You’ve advertised for help with a bakery in a country town. Two people apply. The first asks prying questions about your business model, disquieting questions that leave you feeling you can’t trust him. The other doesn’t bother showing up for the interview. You have to call him and remind him. So, who do you hire? They one you can’t trust? Or the one who couldn’t care less?

Continue reading “Abraham’s family disintegrates (Genesis 27)”

Isaac: the next kingdom representative (Genesis 26)

The Isaac narrative is all about the way Abraham’s descendants must follow in his footsteps.

Since Abraham laid the foundation of the nation that would restore the blessing of divine reign to the earth, what Abraham’s descendants must do is to follow in his footsteps. The Genesis narrator makes this point in the way he recounts Isaac’s life. Continue reading “Isaac: the next kingdom representative (Genesis 26)”

Abraham’s life: a summary (Genesis 12–25)

Abraham lived his entire life for the kingdom of God.

Abraham is the most significant human so far. The narrator devoted more space to Abraham than to Adam, Cain, Lamech, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Shem combined. Why was Abraham so important? His significance was his contribution to the kingdom of God. Continue reading “Abraham’s life: a summary (Genesis 12–25)”